I’ve been here three times now. I still can’t walk into the American Cemetery in Colleville Sur Mer, without my eyes watering. The depth of what happened, mixed with an absolute sea of perfectly placed white grave markers, against a backdrop of deep green grass, makes for an image that is hard to put into proper perspective.
9,387 American heroes are buried on the 172 acres here. As you walk in silence, the birds, and the occasional waves breaking below is all you can hear. It’s beautifully peaceful. It’s exactly the way you would want it if your father, or grandfather were buried here. The cemetery sits just above Omaha beach, you can smell the salt in the moist air. The American Battle and Monuments commission oversees the care, and maintenance of this, and many other American Cemeteries here in Europe and worldwide. A group of Americans live here, they are the one’s charged with overseeing the care, and maintenance of this most hallowed ground. I can tell you first hand, the work they do should make you proud. Nothing is out of place. The utmost of respect is given, every minute, every hour, every day, to those who remain here forever.
There is a much larger than normal amount of people walking through today. The center section which normally begins with a reflection pool, is covered with a stage, and brilliant red carpet. This is where our D-Day veterans will sit on Friday. By the hundreds.
Walking among the crowd is military re-enactors. Representing just about every branch, and every country involved in the Allied invasion. Completely restored Jeeps, and Army vehicles of all kinds that were simply left here after the war, are now driving around Omaha and Utah beach areas. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that there was still WW2 action happening today.
Every single time I’ve visited here, I have seen French school children. Today was no exception. A large group of students I followed for a moment, talked about the sacrifice, the war, and how our American men liberated their country. They laid flowers at graves, and said prayers for the men they’ve never known, and said thank you for their actions, which will be known forever.
In three days time, our North Texas D-Day veterans will be here. They will be honored. They will be celebrated. They will be moved. They will know that this is likely the last time they will be here. We don’t know how many more anniversaries we will have to share with them, and to have them tell us their stories. That is why we are here. That is why all we must take the time, to simply listen.
Goodnight from Normandy.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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